On the international poster for the $26m film Silk, the beautiful face of a Japanese woman looms large above the image of established stars Keira Knightley and Michael Pitt. This is the striking visage of Sei Ashina.

She was cast from more than 800 hopefuls for the role of a mysterious woman who captures Pitt's heart in director Francois Girard's extravagant 19th-century tale of a silkworm trader who travels across the continents to Japan in the 1800s to replenish his supply of the valuable insects.

It is an impressive coup for the 23-year-old Ashina, who began her career in modelling and TV work including Japan's long-running superhero series Kamen Rider (where Joe Odagiri also got his start).

Ashina is represented by one of Japan's most-established talent agencies, HoriPro.

Many talented women in Japan launch their careers with light, pop-culture fare and purely visual-based work, but Ashina is serious about her craft.

'Acting is something I can completely immerse myself in,' she says.

'There are so many ways to approach a role. No matter how many times you read the script, there's no set method. To bring a fictional character to life through my own feelings, experience and imagination is one of the great joys of acting.'

Veteran director Girard selected the budding talent not only for her stunning looks but also her mannerisms and inner qualities. 'Before filming began, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn things such as traditional Japanese dance, the art of the tea ceremony, as well as getting used to wearing a kimono,' says Ashina.

Silk screened as a world premiere in the Special Presentations section at the Toronto International Film Festival and will close the upcoming Tokyo International Film Festival, giving the actress more high-profile exposure.

Meanwhile, she is continuing her TV, modelling and feature film work at home.

Ashina is open to all kinds of projects and has only praise for one of her Silk co-stars, Miki Nakatani (Memories Of Matsuko, Train Man). 'I'm gaining experience, so I'm interested in working with a variety of directors and challenging myself.

Miki Nakatani and I were both in Silk but didn't have a chance to act in the same scenes. I'd like to watch and learn from her.'

Of her selection in the second edition of Pusan's Star Summit Asia, Ashina says
'It's a wonderful chance to participate in an event on an international stage. I'm sure I'll be nervous, but I hope to have a great experience.'

With a first name that means 'star', Sei Ashina looks set for a shining career in movies.


Contact: HoriPro, (81) 3 3490 8411


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To be confirmed